Revising Peanut Butter Pancakes and Fueling Running Results

I revisited the peanut butter pancake recipe today and there were successes and backslidings. To review, the last batch of pancakes were very peanut buttery, but the batter was overly thick and the crumb was quite dense for a pancake. This go round, I reduced peanut butter by 1/8 cup to help with batter texture, used baking soda and buttermilk to increase fluff, and kept the other components stable.

The newly revised recipe reads like this:

Whisk together

1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup peanut butter

Sprinkle over the top

3 TBSP flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk again, until combined. Drop by 3 TBSP sized gloops (technical term) onto a hot, oiled griddle or sauté pan. Cook as though they were pancakes. Eat. Yields 5 pancakes.

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I know the photo only shows four pancakes, but I was pancaking post run today, and in my exercise induced hunger ate the first as soon as it came off of the griddle. Results were mixed. While the last batch smelled like peanut butter cookies as they cooked, this batch smelled more like a half-melted Reese’s. The batter was certainly more pancake-esque, spreading without any threats from spoons. The final products looked a bit less squat and brown up at bit more prettily in the pan.

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Flavorwise, they were slightly disappointing. I could certainly taste the peanut butter, but it was much less vivid than the peanutiness of the first batch. While I ate the entire last batch unadorned, these had enough of a traditional pancake taste that I almost wanted maple syrup for them. The crumb reflected the previous findings, lighter, more traditionally pancaked, and with fewer chunks of peanut drifting around.

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It certainly looks like further testing will be required, but that’s okay, I’m willing to sacrifice myself in pursuit of the purest peanut butter pancake philosophy. I’m currently considering several solutions, ranging from spending more time in the philosophy chamber during the mixing, to upping the buttermilk and peanut butter in tandem to preserve texture, but increase nuttiness. I confess that the pancakes were a bit of a side project today, as I was actually roasting off vegetables from the fridge and pantry in order to create room for the results of today’s shopping trip. A bit more attention to detail during the creation process and we will hopefully gain transcendence on this path together.

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In other news, this morning’s run was lovely. Delayed by a day, due to a work event, and reduced by a mile during my mental pep talk so that I could convince myself to get out the door, it was the fastest run I’ve managed for quite a while and very encouraging training-wise. Last week was a slog, I didn’t manage to increase my distance on my long run even though I felt like I was pushing a bit harder than was wise. My mid-week run was decent, but not as fast as it had felt to me. Two weeks of feeling like my efforts were having no effect on fitness and simply exhausting me were making me grumpy where the half-marathon plan was concerned. I even cut off distance on two runs because of muscles that felt like they were straining wrong. Monday’s long run, however, turned out to be an even 13.1 miles (the park signs that I was trying to base my distance on disagreed with my mapping app and I went further than planned) . Not only was it the full length of my race, but I managed an average pace of 10:45 which seems decent, considering that I still have three months left to train. Today, after I took the hardest steps of any run – those from my room to the employee parking lot – I managed to get in 5.5 miles at an 8:54 pace while still feeling controlled enough to push into a sprint for the last few meters. I also got a nice breathing workout on a 300 ft hill just before my turnaround point.

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The obligatory weekly portrait is me after the red face and salt sweat tracks on my cheekbones had worn off a bit and I got dressed up to come into town for the day.

Continuing to count the positives of this week, today marks 50 days until Mother Hen and Father Bear show up for a visit and Tuesday will mark the halfway point in the summer. I’m only about 700 words behind goal in CampNaNo at the moment, a deficit that I hope to make up as soon as I put this blog to bed. If I can build a small buffer over my two days off, that will be even nicer. Right now, there’s this odd conflict where I want to count down the days until I get to go home, but then panic because I’m also counting down the days until I’m supposed to have 50,000 words written. Fortunately, the NaNo pact is very similar to the blogging pact, in that it’s more about getting words on a page than it is about getting sensible or coherent words on a page.

Until next week, then, strange and stranger peoples who happen upon these words of the odd creature known commonly as the Ronibird. May the days of the coming week be most felicitous.

Tan Lines, Deadlines, Countdowns, Word Counts, Detours, and Delays

Greetings, random residents of the internet and welcome to your weekly update. Today’s update is sponsored by the 3,250 words that I should be trying to write for Camp NaNo, but have successfully avoided so far today. You can get quite a bit of sympathy out of people by telling them you have to write 3,000 words, but it tends to evaporate when you explain that “have to”, really translates to “I’m doing it for fun/competing with my sister.” So I am giving myself sympathy, now that I’ve driven off the sympathy of others, and procrastinating for all I’m worth.

First, there was the sleeping in. Sure, I could have gotten up and written in those lovely morning hours when the brain is fresh and energized and the birds would have sung outside my window. There might even have been hot chocolate. Or I could have driven into town immediately after I finally did get up, gotten my writing station set up before noon and cranked out at least a thousand words before the clock switched over to p.m. I could have begun writing as soon as I finally did arrive in town, rather than carrying my fifty pounds (approximate weight) of library books across town and then carrying ten pounds of fresh books back. The detour to sit in the park and watch the hikers climbing the hills was probably procrastination too, but I refuse to regret the lovely conversation with my Mother Hen that occurred during that time. Now, of course, I have finally gotten my writing equipment set up, drunk my coffee, checked Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, various blogs, and email. Things are becoming more desperate on the procrastination front.

20140710-164254-60174020.jpgI already took about half an hour to comb these Raggedy Ann curls out of my hair…

My cellphone is at the point of near death, so texting as a distraction is out. There is the possibility that if I delay long enough, I’ll get kicked out of the shop at closing time, before having to buckle down and actually work – but although I’m not sure what time they actually close, I have over two hours before that rescue is a possibility. Also, I think the latte is beginning to kick in, which means that if I don’t expel as much energy as possible through rapid typing, I’ll inadvertently start climbing the walls. And even in a tourist town like Jackson, that might cause some raised eyebrows. There doesn’t seem to be much point in holding out any longer. But I can leave you, friendly and nonjudgemental internet, with a few more nearly coherent sentences before I give in. That should show my work of fiction who’s really in charge around here.

My tan lines are beginning to resemble a cubist painting, which makes me unreasonably happy. For one, it’s nice to not be the color of a pale marshmallow any longer, for another, I find the overlapping edges and shades amusing. I have the traditional runner’s wristwatch tan, the less traditional running sandals’ strap tan, and a fairly typical summer clothing tan from shorts and tee-shirts in additional to the intersecting lines caused by various blouses, dresses, and tank tops. Lacking the traditional familial tan-line scale to use as a comparison (from tannest to least tan – oldest brother, youngest sister, mother, etc.), I merely measure myself again my winter photos and feel accomplished.

Mother Hen and Father Bear have made reservations to come visit in September, giving me the project of arranging expedition plans for that time. Another way to procrastinate? No, I think I’d better hold that in reserve for another day. Still, after the promised 4th of July visit from extended family, it’s nice to have another date, closer than the end of my rotation, to count down to.

The no-fixed-address beast has been rearing its head again, as I suddenly seem to have multiple entities bent on communicating with me through snail mail. They send their important documents (the envelopes say that’s what they are full of) to Home Base and Mother Hen drafts various members of the household to stuff them in bigger envelopes and stamp them and send those envelopes off to my current mailing address. Each new missive that arrives at Home Base sets off the age old discussion – to forward or not to forward? Mother Hen has recently taken to simply opening most of my correspondence for me. It’s sad, how there’s no privacy in this modern day and age.

And now I’m twitchily scrolling back through my writing thus far, wracking my brain for any amusing little anecdotes from the week. It was a good week at work, I didn’t cut any fingers off or set anyone on fire. We’ve been getting steadily busier, although still not approaching the levels of crazy that were present in my last two rotations. June and July look like the busiest catering months on the work calendar, so I’m not sure if business will continue to build through August or not. The biggest stress is knowing whether to prepare a lot of food and risk it spoiling due to a slow week, or to prepare a small quantity of food and risk running out in the middle of the night. Most nights, however, I’m happily low in the decision making process and therefore blame and/or credit for the results of these debates does not fall on me.

And that’s really all I have to say for the moment, gaping void of internet. You may dissolve my words in your massiveness, or preserve them for the next generation, as you see fit. I’m off to convert the single sentence of inspiration that has drifted into my head in the past two days into 3,000 or so riveting words of adventure and daring-do. You’ll have to procrastinate by yourself from here on out.

Sagebrush and Other Exciting Sights

plain jane adventuring

plain jane adventuring

As an employee, I am allowed to participate in many of various activities that my company provides to guests at no cost to myself. Free means that I am only allowed to attend if there is space after all the paying guests have signed up. Despite having a wrangler as a roommate last summer, I never attempted to go out on any of the horseback trail rides. I probably wouldn’t have gone out this summer either, but one of the Russian workers at the golf course assumed that I would be excited to go with her and made all the arrangements almost before I had time to register what was going on.

It isn’t that I don’t find the idea of riding exciting and fun, but I knew from last summer that these were the kinds of horses that walk the trails two or three times a day carrying chattering tourists and all kinds of young, old, and inexperienced riders. I didn’t imagine that there would be much excitement once all the usual safety precautions were taken. I wasn’t far wrong. The wranglers had already gotten in their first month and a half of practicing their shouted park tour – presented half-turned from their saddle at the front of the line. After getting off work at 10:20 the night before and waking up at 6:45 for the hours drive up to meet with our 8:00 a.m. riding group, I was mostly feeling like I could easily fall asleep as my horse (he went by the name of Gibson, if you were wondering) walked slowly through the trees, lead by Izzy and followed by Opie. The horses seemed quite disinterested in the entire affair as well, only occasionally causing excitement when they split up the group by stopping to go to the bathroom or stepping off to create a side trail to avoid puddles.

 

The weather was beautiful, even though it was a bit chilly in the woods. I felt like I could have enjoyed the views more if I had felt more balanced on the horse. The angle the stirrup forced my left knee into was immediately aggravating to the area affected by my ACL surgery and Gibson wasn’t particularly careful about allowing enough room for both him and I to pass by the tree trunks. Our group consisted of five girls, one Russian worker and one American worker from the immediate area, myself and my Russian co-worker, the wrangler, and one elderly male guest. The wrangler and the two employees I hadn’t previously met seemed to be acquainted and between chatting with her friend, the wrangler would occasionally point out landmarks and comment on what wildlife it was possible to spot in the area. The fact that I’m not really all that far from home was reinforced when she mentioned that you could spot Canadian Geese in the area and gave a detailed little spiel about sagebrush.

just to be clear, we took no pictures and saw no wildlife on this trip. I'm garnishing with unrelated photos.

just to be clear, we took no pictures and saw no wildlife on this trip. I’m garnishing with unrelated photos.

Just as we were stopping at an overlook to take photos, in the rockiest bit of path yet, the saddle beneath the only guest on the tour twisted to one side of the horse and he slid off in slow motion as we all watched helplessly, our inexperience with the whole affair leaving us stuck on our horses. After a moment of horror, it became apparent that he wasn’t badly hurt and as he walked off the fall, we sat on our assigned animals until a relief wrangler could come and lead us back to the corrals. The second half of the ride was subdued in the way things often are in the aftermath of an accident among strangers and we missed any opportunity to take pictures. The only photos that I have of the day’s adventuring are from when I pulled into a turn-off so that my co-worker and I could admire the bison and their calves next to the highway.

baby bison are quite cute

baby bison are quite cute

 

So, I have once more been on a horse, although I can’t say the experience was particularly fun or memorable. I limped back to the car after dismounting, since my left knee was too stiff and pained to walk on properly for an hour or so after the ride. My co-worker is friendly, but her English is limited enough to make communication more of a strain than casual conversation. I still prefer less organized adventures and spur-of-the-moment is not something that is included in these guest activities.

I remembered to admire the Canadian Geese and sagebrush as I spontaneously biked into town today, though. After all, it would be a pity to fail to appreciate the local wildlife during my stay in the Tetons.

reflecting on the week's adventures in my cafe.

reflecting on the week’s adventures in my cafe.

Greening Rain

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I woke up this morning to the steady splashings of rain outside my window. It was one of those continuous, but soft kinds of rain. Not really stormy, just enough force to muffle the extraneous nosies of the day. The greens of the hills look softer in that kind of light sprinkle, and the grey light isn’t oppressive, just calm. When I arrived in town, the raindrops had stopped falling, but the sides of the wooden boardwalks had very splashable puddles and the air was still cool with a slight breeziness. The damp always seems to carry scents better and the lilacs are still in bloom here, so it’s almost impossible to not walk along with your head tilted up to catch the perfumes.

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It’s a day off, and we were finally almost busy at work this past week. Sunday was perhaps the slowest day for the restaurant this season, with only one person coming in to eat during the four hours we were open for dinner. Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, on the other hand, had steady seatings, with a few moments of rushed busyness. Days off are much more rewarding when it feels like you’ve actually been working. It’s also my relaxing day from running, cross-training, core, and other muscle stretching activities. Since I don’t have to wear exercise clothes and my work uniform is mostly the opposite of cute or fun, I’m taking advantage of today’s lack of dress code to wear a skirt, cap, and cute boots to sit in my cafe and write. I did forget to put earrings in – if my piercings ever seal back up, it will be the fault of summers like this. I’m not allowed jewelry at work, I don’t like to wear it when I exercise, and my sisters aren’t here to play dress-up with.

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They are, however, out in force on the internet today, sharing ideas and asking for thoughts and sending pictures of cute nieces to me via the wonderful communications systems available to us. I had to take a brief break from the beginnings of this blog to rewrite a song in honor of the youngest niece and her ineffective diapers. The Juggernaut brother and I are exchanging texts about the current World Cup games, while I stream soothing music over Pandora and evaluate the scientific validity of Pinterest quote boards (it’s pretty low). It’s a good day, a productive day, a relaxing day, and a blessing counting day.

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I often feel like growth, as prescribed by the world, is frustrating, painful, and confusing. “Growth is Painful,” “Growth is a long, hard process,” “Growth cuts like a scythe through safety,” and “Your largest fear carries your greatest growth,” proclaim those nominally evaluated Pinterest quotes. And sometimes it does come in those spurts that stretch you out and leave you feeling like you don’t have enough skin to cover all the ground you’re hanging over. But these slow, quiet, gentle days, when you can feel leaves stretching out and almost see the grass happily inching upward, when you can feel the refreshed and renewed life hanging in the wet air, this is also growth. It’s the kind of growing where you shake and settle into that stretched out skin and feel so entirely like yourself again. It’s the relaxed growth of balance, that leaves you ready to deal with the next sudden spurt. And it’s lovely to realize that even though those sayings may be half right and growth happens in the thunder, you can also feel its tingling excitement in the gentle greening rains.

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Goals and Fractions as Clear as Mud

Goals – I’ve been meeting them. A quarter of the way through this Wyoming and I’ve blogged and hiked at least once a week, run at least three times a week, and even pulled my bike out of the car trunk for a couple of rides. I’ve stayed within my grocery budget, avoided injuring myself, and enjoyed myself two or three times. I’ve worked on my fiction writing projects, poetry, and recipe thoughts. I’m gradually fulfilling the paperwork and research requirements of my employment program. And that’s about all that’s going on in my life at any point as I traipse about the Cowboy State on my own.

I interact with occasional casual acquaintance or random stranger and find the interactions equal parts stressful and interesting. Other person waiting at the bus stop, I’m texting as an indicator that I’m not available for a chat. But your conversation is basically just friendly, non-in-depth comments, so I’m not bothered overmuch by your ignoring that cue. Co-worker who tries to get me to agree with your comments without actually hearing them for myself, that’s not going to happen. I’d have to get along with you a lot better for a lot longer before there’s even a chance that I’ll trust you that far.

There was snow, for about twenty minutes yesterday morning. Then the sun showed up and it disappeared like it hadn’t actually started coating the ground in June. Nobody came to swim in the pool at the club, though. Overall, I’ve appreciated the cooler weather of the mountains as I extend my training runs, although it does make it more of a mental challenge to climb out of bed in the mornings.

This is the type of writing project I find frustrating. Nothing has happened since I last blogged that’s inspiring me to tell a story. Just the days, getting marked off on the calendar and I don’t even active mark them off, just observe the marker on the iCalendar as it edges forward through the month. This week holds the days that indicate I’ve completed 1/4 and 3/11s of my summer here. At the bottom edge of the iPad, I can see four weeks into the future, when I’ll reach the exciting 13/28s marker.

I’m tired and I’m energized with no clear correlation to when I last drank coffee, although it does seem to be related to when my runs feel most succsessful. I get up on time and I laze in bed for longer than I really should, because I have to remind myself that not going to work until 2 p.m. does not mean I ought to stay under the covers until 1:30. I feel strong and I feel sluggish depending on when I last ran or last ate. I feel productive and I feel pointless based on checkbook updating and room cleaning versus iPad games and random internet browsing. I go to bed and tell myself I should sleep and then wonder if I can just stay awake until the end of September. The panic about forgetting how to drive to work (something I haven’t had to do for over a year) and the kaleidoscopic interactions I’ve had with the odd characters around here in my recent dreams are making me more reluctant to see what my mind will come up with for entertainment while I’m unconscious.

So here’s a blog about exploring self and becoming more independent. Breaking free of the nest and spending my free time drinking coffee out of glasses in shops with WiFi. Not being myself because I’m with the wrong others and not being with others because they stop me from being myself. Life is happening this summer, slowly but surely. And I’m not giving up on the goals, even when the blog spews forth in disorder and opacity. Because I wasn’t silly enough to say I would blog sensibly. I simply promised to try for regularlity.

Older Sister Younger

twins? no, but we were a pair
in sparkling tutus with straight brown hair
seven together, but just us two
out of all the mix had eyes of blue

you called me ‘pink’ and I kicked the bed
to disturb your rest where you lay over my head
you were never perfect and I loved to find a fight
but you told me fairy stories laying in our bunks at night

just a little older, and I followed closely in your wake
together we raised baby dolls and jumped into the lake
whenever your name was called to ring up in the rafters
I would jump to go as well, knowing mine would come right after

sometimes they would mix us up, though you were always taller
we were friends, the best of friends, big sister and one smaller

when I travel far from home, I take walks all alone
and my mind will skip and say “call her on the phone,
it’s been a while since you talked, and she would like this thought.”
because it’s listening to my heart and forgetting that you’re not

not doing things before me, so I can see the way
not off there with the others, as they work through the day
I cannot call you up upon the phone you never had
cannot share my mad with you, my sadness or my glad

big sister, I can’t quite comprehend how I got older than you are
or why when I look back to see you, I have to strain so far
you took a shortcut up to heaven before I quite understood
and now I’m taking a longer way and missing your sisterhood

The Path of the Peanut Butter Pancake Philosopher

This is where it begins. The path to zen, world peace, and shangri-la. Or at least, the journey of the peanut butter pancake. As far as life philosophies go, it may seem a bit unformed, but rest assured that it will develop detail over time.

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I didn’t take much convincing

My first attempt to fulfill this spur-of-the-moment commitment (I have several of these in my life at the moment – the most time consuming being the running of a half-marathon in October) focused on using on-hand ingredients and short preparation time. I started with Smitten Kitchen’s version of the Pioneer Woman’s sour cream pancakes, because it’s my preferred recipe for making my own individual breakfast pancakes. I considered starting with an actual peanut butter pancake recipe, but the first few I browsed through said they had a faint or light peanut butter flavor, which was not my end goal.

Have we reached semantic satiation for the word pancake yet? No? How about peanut butter? Still no? Let’s carry on then. Short preparation time didn’t become important for prototype pancake batch A until I nudged my iPad into snooze repeats for about an hour on the morning I planned to griddle up. This was not entirely due to laziness on my part – I had a traumatic encounter with the device earlier this week when attempting to shut off the alarm and since I have never injured myself when simply asking it to check back with me in nine minutes, snooze now seems like the safer option when I’m half-asleep.

according to my mother, I should try to avoid shedding my own blood.

according to my mother, I should try to avoid shedding my own blood.

However it came about, I found myself with a self-imposed pancaking deadline and so I stuck to the basics with my prototype recipe.

First, I retrieved my mixing bowl from the back seat of the car, where it has been living in peaceful harmony with a larger mixing bowl, a cooling rack, and my bicycle since my arrival in Wyoming a month ago. Then, in my private philosophy chamber, I whisked together:

1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk, soured with 1/2 t of cider vinegar
3/8 cup peanut butter, crunchy

Here we arrive at the first tenet of the Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy – all peanut butter that enters a Peanut Butter Pancake Mixing Bowl must be CRUNCHY. I cannot explain this, I simply know it to be so. Deviate at your own peril.

Chunky peanut butter was Super Chunk, to be precise

Chunky peanut butter was Super Chunk, to be precise

Over the top of this mixture, I sprinkled:

3 TBSP unbleached white flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

And stirred the whole of it together with a wooden spoon. Use of wooden spoons in mixing is not a tenet of the Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy, but all elite Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophers use them. You may make of this what you will.

After the batter had come together nicely, I was forced to leave the philosophy chamber to heat a non-stick frying pan with a little oil over a medium-high heat. The non-stickiness of the pan and the electric stovetop were counter to my preferences, but I made do with what was actually available to me. I dropped the batter in approximately 1/8 cup portions and spread it out slightly with a spoon, as it was too thick to settle on its own. Hopefully, I will be able to address this issue in prototype pancake batch B.

pancake results

pancake results

The final yield of the one-egg recipe was six palm-sized pancakes, with a soft crumb and pronounced peanut butter taste. I had a moment of concern when I first applied my pancake batter to the frying pan, as it occurred to me that I might simply be frying peanut butter cookie dough, but the texture of the end result was decidedly more pancakey than cookie-ish.

soft and fluffy pancake

soft and fluffy pancake

Retreating to the privacy of my philosophy chamber; I ate the entire batch, to prove that it was indeed a single-person sized recipe, and waited an hour before heading out on my half-marathon training run. I feel that even with the wait time, the execution of my Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy commitment did weigh me down somewhat as I executed my half-marathon training commitment, but with some closer attention to scheduling details I should be able to avoid future conflicts of this nature.

handy running path that goes on forever - I use it for most of my long training runs

handy running path that goes on forever – I use it for most of my long training runs

Keep checking back to see more of my impromptu commitments and learn the second tenet of Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy. Until then, experiment on your own to find your personal point of semantic satiation for the key words pancake, peanut, and butter. I will be reflecting on the fleeting nature of pancakes in the philosophy chamber.

The Plague of the Volunteer Mentor

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Is it only stubborn cynics, or does everyone bristle when a new acquaintance decrees that they are going to change your behavior? I’ve encountered a few people who seem to approach new co-workers as reform projects and it never fails to rub me the wrong way.

Whether it be basic personality, general upbringing, or some explanation beyond the nature vs. nurture arguement, I tend to embrace new colleagues slowly. After interacting with them in a reserved manner for a while, I begin to feel comfortable showing other facets of my personality – such as my appreciation for the fine art of the sarcastic comment. Often they are taken aback by this new approach, but in the end, it all settles down into a pleasant working relationship.

Proof that my methods work - me being not shy and reserved with friends from last summer in Wyoming.

Proof that my methods work – me being not shy and reserved with friends from last summer in Wyoming.

I can even deal with those people who decide that I am ‘shy’ or ‘need to come out of my shell,’ although their constant prodding can slow down the entire process. But I have met one or two people during this past year who manage to take it to a whole new level. These are the ones who, a few minutes after introductions volunteer themselves to be mentors/confidants/guides despite any signs I can project that I’m happy with my current mentors/confidants/guides.

It can be a doubly frustrating process when I know they have some knowledge that would be of use to me, but they hide it behind a condescending attitude, constant barrage of speech, and demands that I begin to follow their plan for my life immediately. I dislike feeling forced into less than gracious behavior, but when a person completely ignores polite comments and continues to press for a response, sometimes all I can find to say that will make any impression is some variation of “you’re not the boss of me.”

Friends met and made in Vail over the past winter.

Friends met and made in Vail over the past winter.

So far, in about four hours of working together, and with nearly no input from me, this new colleague has told me I need to move to New York, given me a list of celebrity chefs I need to start following, told me to watch certain documentaries, decided to give me impromptu quizzes, tried to correct my vocabularly/pronunciation, attempted to assign me food research ‘homework’, and decreed that he was ‘going to get me excited about something‘ (this last in almost despairing condescension).

Now, two days into our acquaintance, I’m stubbornly determined to never be excited around him. In many cases, my defense against people I don’t really want to talk to is monosyllabic replies and abstraction – but the volunteer mentor seems to view this simply as another facet of me that needs reform. They also seem to view a quiet person as an available audience for lectures, rather than someone avoiding converstaion. I’m still trying to determine the antidote for the plague of the volunteer, since engaging with them encourages, not engaging with them challenges them, and avoiding them can only succeed for short periods of time.

Unfortunately, the last one I ran across never seemed to catch onto to the fact that I wasn’t all that appreciative of his efforts, so my hope that there is an actual cure is slim. Fortunately, all my other co-workers and supervisors are pleasant and it’s easy working with them. If this new self-assigned mentor can manage not to argue word definitions with me again, I can probably manage to put up with his insistent interference in my life plan. But he’ll have to avoid trying to give me English vocabulary lessons, ’cause that’s just plain insulting.

The Randomness of Mountains

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The mosquito bites aren’t as plentiful or irritated as I worried they might be, but walking on the flat, carpeted floor feels a bit more like balancing on a tightrope than I would prefer. Amusing, considering that I’ve significantly upped my running distances for the past two weeks without such obvious side effects. But the randomness fits in with the rest of the start of this Wyoming summer.

Let me back up. I received my job ‘offer’ letter back in March and it decreed that I needed to be in Wyoming by May 14th, ready to begin work on the day after. My new boss didn’t actually call me into work until the 20th. Since that first day, my schedule has been a patchwork of being told my hours the day before, getting called in the middle of the afternoon to come in for a brief two hours of work, and texted information day-by-day.

weeks of randomness can affect one's sanity

weeks of randomness can affect one’s sanity

Random is one word to describe it, but most of all, frustrating. Hours have been few enough since I got here that I don’t want to miss out on a chance to work, but I don’t want to spend my free days glued to the golf course waiting for possible calls. Yesterday, by the time I’d ascertained that I did, indeed, have the day off and evaluated my options for the afternoon, it was 3 p.m. I was running low on provisions and decided to go ahead and make a grocery run rather than trying for a long bike ride. I outfitted myself for easy walking, thinking that I might go ahead and stroll around downtown and maybe stop in a cafe for a while and write.

I drove across Jackson to the everyday half of town (as opposed to the tourist half) and bought a few random supplies – super glue for the mug I’d managed to toss off of the nightstand, an underliner to make my in-room pantry more functional – before re-evaluating my options. I’m trying to stay aware of how much I’m using my car and not waste money using it to travel simply because I have it with me, so I elected not to drive back across town to the downtown area. I would only need to drive right back to where I was for my grocery shopping and thanks to being here without a car last summer, I knew I was perfectly capable of getting across town without driving.

cross-country travel can leave the feet dusty

cross-country travel can leave the feet dusty

But I didn’t really feel like waiting around for the bus, especially after spending the entire morning waiting around for a response from work. I could have walked to the downtown area, but I did that so many times last summer that it sounded like a dull option. So I elected to walk over to the town trail system and explore. I only discovered the entrance to the hillside trail area late last summer, so it was ground that I had only covered, at most, once before.

The first brief section of hiking led to a connection with the Snow King Trail that I had walked last year, so I turned off a relatively horizontal trail for the more familiar and much more vertical one. A lot of panting, red-facedness, and friendly dogs later and I made it to the summit, where you can stand and see the entire town laid out before you, followed by the Elk Flats and behind them and their lakes, the Tetons.

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Still retracing my steps from last summer, I hiked along the top of the mountain ridge back across town. One side of the mountain drops down to town, the other opens up to acres of open ground. The trail was mostly clear, with only a few really slushy or snow covered sections. After the hard work of the climb the cool breezes at the top were quite pleasant, except for the clouds of mosquitoes who seemed pleased with all the portable snack bars that were traveling through.

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At the far end of the ridge, the path turned back into a series of switchbacks leading down to the same area of town that I had started from. Narrower and dustier than the path I’d walked up, but no less steep, they took a fair amount energy to navigate. By the time I’d regained pavement, my legs were feeling shaky and my phone clock told me that my possible stroll downtown had turned into a three hour hike over and across a dusty mountain.

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It seemed silly to leave the grocery shopping undone, since it had been my original purpose, so I didn’t. While I already knew that shopping while hungry can cause you to buy an excess of food, I now know that shopping while thirsty and dirt-coated leads me to buy a lot of fruit. Today, I’ll have to see if my sore muscles will allow me to balance long enough to put it all away.

How to Make a Stunning Entrance into a Room of Strangers

My run started out innocuously enough. I drove the 1.5 miles through the little golf course village and across the highway so that I could use my car as a shoe and water station if need be. I’m a bit behind where I’d like to be for half-marathons in October, but between the altitude switch and a strong desire to remain uninjured, have so far managed to talk myself into keeping the pace slow and steady. I started downhill toward the town of Jackson, and by the half-way point on my timer had looped back to the car. There were no other runners on the path anywhere near me, but I was passed in both directions by multiple bicycles. I briefly evaluated my feet to see if I wanted to grab my Zems out of the car, but they were holding up just fine and I knew from an earlier bike ride that I could count on smooth surfaces for the remainder of the run.

A few minutes into the second half of the run, I passed my last bicyclist of the day who called out a cheerful “hey, barefooter!” as he breezed by in the opposite direction. Having run further continuously than I’d managed on my previous long run at altitude and with the weather cooling down plesantly, I was starting to feel like I was falling into a nice, paced, groove. There was a slight uphill rise to the trail, but nothing horribly noticeable and I was beginning to hope I could fall into a zone for the final 30 minutes.

This peaceful moment, gazing forward to the majestic beauty of the Tetons, feeling like there were wings on my feet despite my measured pace, enjoying the wash of light from the setting sun to my left, was naturally when my nose began to bleed.

Now, even when I live at a steady elevation, I have a proclivity for nosebleeds and in the past year of sudden elevation changes, I’ve noticed that they tend to cause even more bloody noses. So I’m not particularly startled or distressed when it happens, although I am frequently exasperated. I also hate allowing normal occurrences to interfere with my training plans. Since the blood wasn’t painful or dangerous, I simply continued on.

You recall that the weather was cooling down? A large part of this was due to the light headwind that I was running into. So as the blood splashed across my face and I periodically wiped it with one hand – half off and half around my face – the wind caught every drop it could and spread them across the shoulders of my shirt, splattered my legs with a few lucky shots, and caught my watch and iPod screen with a few dashes as well.

So picture this, then. I’m running in the middle of a huge stretch of nothing, just me and the highway splitting the sagebrush in one direction from the sagebrush in the other. I’m barefoot, panting with effort, and my hands and face are covered in a wild smearing of blood. I worried about how it might look to the cars passing on the highway, so I did try to look as carefree and casual as possible. This may have only contributed to an overall impression of insanity. I’m not sure.

sane or insane, you decide.

sane or insane, you decide.

The nosebleed stopped before too long, but not before my face paint was truly impressive, coating my nose on both sides and continuing in a fairly solid mask down across my mouth to right under my chin. Just as I made it back to my car, a couple did pull off the highway to ask me if I was okay, but they were the only close contact I had when my appearance was at its most frightening. With the help of my water bottle and the edges of my shirt, I washed most of the blood off and thought that I looked considerably better.

Then I made it back to employee housing and grabbed a towel and soap to finish off the final nooks and crannies. When I stepped into the main living area – home to the kitchen, television, and sofas, there was a moment of shocked silence as the three guys in conversation observed me. They recovered enough to ask me if I was alright and as I reassured them and slipped into the bathroom, I overheard “looks like she’s been in a fight with a wild animal.”

So I want to reassure everyone who might be worried that I’m not spending enough time getting to know my new housemates. Sure, I avoid talking to them most of the time and tend to be quiet and brief even when I do, but it’s not the quantity of interaction – it’s the quality. And I think I gave them some quality impressions today.